Best of Bologna on the cheap

What's New — By juliahawes on July 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Image by Julia Hawes

Want to eat fabulously in Bologna for under 25 Euros each day? It’s far easier than you think. Try out this combination of cafés, osterias and gelaterias for a simple, satisfying food tour of the city.

First stop before starting your day: breakfast. Many albergos and pensiones offer simple, complimentary meals of pastries, jams, coffee and hot chocolate. For better or worse, Italians don’t value breakfast as the most important meal of the day, presumably because there is less meat, cheese and wine involved. But the typical “bars” located on nearly every block of the city usually have a fine selection of good coffees and your occasional pastry. For both, try Bar Pasticceria Progetto/Gamberino on Ugo Bassi for buttery brioche, tarts and cappuccino.

La Tua Piadina (Via Borgonuovo 17) is a terrific lunch spot with cheap, tasty piadine (thin flatbread sandwiches) and crescioni (fried pastry squares with various fillings) that’s tucked away from the usual throngs of tourists. Nearly everything on the menu is under 5 Euros, and the range is impressive, with more than 20 different kinds of piadine and plenty of options for vegetarians. It’s located around the corner from the lovely Piazza Santo Stefano, home of the “seven churches” located in the church complex on the main square, a perfect spot to enjoy your lunch and people watch.

Image by Penningtron

For dinner, Osteria dell’Orsa on Via Mentana in the University quarter offers a taste of true Bologna cuisine and serves as the perfect cap to an evening with a delicious, affordable meal – two diners can easily enjoy pasta, vino, water and crostini for under 20 Euros. The cozy, dark-paneled bar has a relaxed atmosphere, and the restaurant has both private and communal tables for diners. Housed in a beautiful 15th-century medieval building, Frommers boasts that the osteria offers some of the “best ragú alla Bolognese in town,” and while it’s indeed delicious, be sure to also check out the daily specials, which often come in pairs for the best variety. You may find yourself treated with a plate boasting both gnocchi alla gorgonzola and a penne rigate dish with pancetta, fresh spinach and wild mushrooms in brown butter. They also offer veal cutlet fiorentina and somarello, or donkey meat, and homemade taglioni pasta.

It wouldn’t be a day in Italy without gelato, and while there are seemingly endless gelaterias in Bologna, La Sorbetteria Castiglione is absolutely worth the short 15-minute walk from Osteria dell’Orsa. You’ll have well earned the gelato by the time you arrive. A small cone sells for 2 or 3 Euros and comes in a variety of flavors, including the traditional nocciola (hazelnut) and stracciatella (chocolate chip) as well as Dolce Emma, a gelato flavored with ricotta and figs, and other unexpected concoctions.

Combine any of these culinary options with a trip up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a few free museums and visits to local flea markets, and you’ll have yourself a nice little Bologna day that won’t have you lamenting the contents of your wallet. The money you spent was on good food, and there’s nothing to lament about that.

Photo taken from flickr Creative Commons, by Penningtron.